01.21.2019 0

Don’t let Congress off the hook on the wall, Mr. President

By Robert Romano

By now, it’s probably getting mighty tempting for President Donald Trump to simply declare a national emergency and build the southern border wall out of existing military construction funds as federal law provides for.

For the uninitiated, 33 U.S. Code Section 2293(a) provides that “In the event of a declaration of war or a declaration by the President of a national emergency in accordance with the National Emergencies Act [50 U.S.C. 1601 et seq.] that requires or may require use of the Armed Forces, the Secretary, without regard to any other provision of law, may (1) terminate or defer the construction, operation, maintenance, or repair of any Department of the Army civil works project that he deems not essential to the national defense, and (2) apply the resources of the Department of the Army’s civil works program, including funds, personnel, and equipment, to construct or assist in the construction, operation, maintenance, and repair of authorized civil works, military construction, and civil defense projects that are essential to the national defense.”

It would be easy to do. But President Trump should not have to go there. The fact that he will not sign a bill that fails to provide the $5.7 billion he is requesting for the wall, more Border Patrol agents, more ICE officers, more immigration judges and to meet the humanitarian needs on the border, should be enough to persuade Congress to come to the table.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) are well aware that funding bills cannot become law without the signature of the President of the United States. They certainly cannot have forgotten how they lectured Congressional Republicans during the 2013 partial government shutdown. Here’s a refresher.

On Oct. 8, 2013, in the midst of a government shutdown, Pelosi implored House Republicans to pass legislation that would pass the Democratic-controlled Senate and be signed into law by then-President Barack Obama.

Pelosi said, “The shutdown could be over in hours if Republicans could stop being the party of ‘no’ and just take ‘yes’ for an answer.”

In this case, Democrats need to stop being the party of “no” and take “yes” for an answer. Pelosi only has a majority in the House. Republicans expanded their Senate majority in 2018 and retain the White House.

Pelosi and House Democrats simply cannot impose their will on the Senate and the White House. That’s what the nation learned in 2013, and now we have to learn it again. Right now, Donald Trump is President and he promised the American people when he ran for office that he would secure the southern border and that it would include the wall. He has promised to veto any bill that fails to secure the border. That should be the end of that discussion. Pelosi and Schumer should at least be willing to sit down and negotiate under those circumstances.

So far, the President is sticking to his guns and at least has shown a willingness to make a deal, something Congressional Democrats so far appear immune to. Instead of a 3-year extension on DACA, they want it permanent without addressing wider issues of immigration reform including chain migration and the visa lottery the President indicated on Twitter must be addressed for a more permanent extension:  “Amnesty is not a part of my offer. It is a 3 year extension of DACA. Amnesty will be used only on a much bigger deal…”

President Trump should continue to ratchet up the pressure on Congress to provide the funds for the border wall and work to a negotiated solution. There is no need to rush to declaring a national emergency. It doesn’t guarantee the monies would be instantly accessible anyway, since it’s virtually guaranteed a liberal judge will enjoin the decision pending a Supreme Court approval of what the law plainly said.

Let the shutdown go on for a few pay periods. See how the State of the Union Address goes. Let the Angel Families tell their stories. Let Democrats explain why they’re suddenly opposed to extending DACA, too.

Eventually, federal workers will figure out that the reason they’re not getting paid is because Pelosi and Schumer refused to allow Republican priorities to be included in the budget. At the end of the day, it is Pelosi and Schumer who are not serving their own constituents. They’re the ones who are being unreasonable — and they will be the ones who ultimately pay the political price.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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